Reaching New Heights With Lean Improvements

What do you do to follow up a record year of order performance? You get lean and prepare to do even better.

Our production facility is regularly seeking ways to improve productivity, and last year we implemented several ideas our shop teams identified (shop improvements blog). After finishing fiscal 2017 with a record volume of orders, we are looking at many more opportunities for productivity improvement throughout the company, using the “Lean” process.

 “Lean” is a systematic method for waste minimization within a manufacturing system without sacrificing productivity. Lean also takes into account waste created through overburden and waste created through unevenness in workloads. It works from the perspective of the client who consumes a product or servicelooking for “value” which is any action or process that a customer would be willing to pay for. 

We will be using outside consultants to guide us through this process. The first goals of this endeavor are to ultimately double our production throughput with the existing space we have and to reduce mandatory overtime sometimes employed to meet production schedules.

If the process is as successful as we anticipate on these goals, we will extend the effort to address other processes, including engineering, field service, and estimating. While consultants will guide us, the work will be done by us. Process changes will be owned and implemented by our people. 

According to COO David Paden, “This is not a ruse to find ways to reduce jobs. To the contrary; there is more opportunity for growth than we can meet with today’s personnel configuration. Our goal is to increase the number of jobs, to have lower prices than peer competitors, to meet delivery demands, and to maintain quality. In other words, to flourish. And to do so, we must continually improve.”

Meetings and training are already underway. The first phase of the process will be to determine a current state work flow diagram and a current state value stream map (defining “value” steps vs “waste” steps). We will continue to post related information as results are forthcoming.